Mike Boehm’s article in Los Angeles Times regarding the Cyrus Cylinder

The article below is by Mike Boehm and appeared in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Huge significance rolled into tiny Cyrus Cylinder at the Getty Villa” (November 13, 2013). As noted by the Los Angeles Times:

The cylinder records how Persia’s Cyrus the Great restored justice, peace and piety to Babylon. It’s fabled not for its looks but its historical, political and religious implications.

Kindly note that the pictures and captions posted below did not appear in the original Los Angeles Times article.

For more on this topic consult:


The Cyrus Cylinder sits dramatically lighted behind glass at the center of a dimmed gallery at the Getty Villa. But the splendorous setting, including walls painted a deep royal blue, can’t dispel the notion that this may be the homeliest object ever to get star treatment in a major art museum. It’s a 9-inch, straw-colored barrel made of cracked and broken clay, devoid of decorative interest. Horizontally tattooed with row after row of tiny cuneiform script that was etched into it 2,552 years ago, it calls to mind a corn cob that’s been gnawed bare. The conquering Persians who drafted and inscribed the cylinder’s text after they’d taken the fabled city of Babylon in 539 BC did not intend it as any kind of showpiece.

cyrus-cylinder-New[Click to Enlarge] The Cyrus Cylinder (The British Museum)

They buried the cylinder inside rebuilt city walls — a customary practice at the time, serving a talismanic function and embedding in Babylon’s very bones a record of how Cyrus the Great restored justice, peace and piety to the capital, which lies south of present-day Baghdad in Iraq.

As with the similarly inelegant Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cyrus Cylinder, which was unearthed by an expedition from the British Museum in 1879, is a fabled find because of its historical, political and religious implications rather than its looks.

The Getty Villa is the fifth and last stop of a nine-month U.S. tour featuring the cylinder and other ancient Persian artifacts from the British Museum. “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning,” runs through Dec. 8. A second gallery offers 14 artifacts including a gold plaque depicting an ancient Zoroastrian priest and a striking upper-arm bracelet topped by statuettes of winged griffins with the heads of eagles and the horns of goats.

3-Ishtar gateThe Ishtar Gate, now housed in the Berlin Museum. When Cyrus entered Babylon-city through the Ishtar gates, the city’s inhabitants laid branches in his path. As noted by Graf, Hirsch, Gleason, and Krefter: “Cyrus proved a tolerant conqueror: when he enteredBabylon…he ordered his troops to show respect for the city’s temples and religious customs.” [D.F. Graf, S.W. Hirsch, K. Gleason, and F.H. Krefter, A Soaring Spirit. New York:Time-Life Books, 1988, p.15]

But the cylinder is the star, claiming a sizable gallery to itself except for a couple of inscribed ancient clay pebbles that were found elsewhere and echo its text. On a recent weekday afternoon, parties of visitors eagerly stood beside it, posing for pictures.

“It’s a very small universe of things that have this status” based only on their inscriptions, said Timothy Potts, the Getty Museum’s director, who has a doctorate in the art and archaeology of the ancient Middle East.

Wailing-WallThe West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel.

The Cyrus Cylinder embodies a great leader’s ideal of prudently humane governance. Having established a multinational empire, Cyrus allowed captive peoples to return to their homelands and worship their own gods. He influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom owned copies of the “Cyropaedia,” an admiring, fictionalized biography and treatise on political philosophy by the Greek soldier and historian Xenophon.

The cylinder also evokes a crucial moment for Western religion, because Cyrus’ tolerance gave a new lease on life to Judaism, resolving a crisis in which the Jews had clung to their faith and peoplehood through 50 years of Babylonian exile.

5-Tomb of EstherThe tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, northwest Iran. External view (left) and the interior of the tomb (right).

The Old Testament’s Book of Ezra and ancient Greek sources recount how Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem with their ransacked ceremonial vessels and encouraged them to rebuild the temple that the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.

“Without that act, who knows what would have happened?” Potts said — not only to Judaism but also to its eventual offshoot, Christianity. “It can be argued it’s one of those turning points in history that, had it not happened, would have made the history of the world incredibly different.”

The Cyrus Cylinder doesn’t mention the Jews, but one of its passages, in a translation by British Museum curator Irving Finkel, is thought to dovetail with and confirm other ancient accounts of Cyrus the Great as their benefactor: “I collected together all of [the displaced groups]… and returned them to their settlements… and made permanent sanctuaries” for gods that the toppled Babylonian king, Nabodinus, had dishonored.

John LockeJohn Locke (1632-1704) is one of the foremost leading thinkers of the enlightenment and one of the proponents of liberal thinking in the western world. He  was fully cognizant of the Cyropaedia, which may explain the parallels between his philosophies and elements of Zoroastrian thought followed by Cyrus the Great.

For these good deeds, Cyrus prays that “all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries” will bless him and his successors. The Achaemenid empire, named for one of Cyrus’ Persian precursors, lasted 200 years, stretching eastward at its height from Turkey to the Indus River in what’s now Pakistan until it was overthrown by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

In Southern California, the cylinder’s arrival marks a chance for one of its newest immigrant groups, Iranian Americans, to step forward and counter stereotypes embedded by 34 years of enmity between their homeland’s current regime and the United States.

cyropaedia-thomas-jefferson-copyThomas Jefferson’s copy of the Cyropaedia (Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney). Like many of the founding fathers and those who wrote the US Constitution, President Jefferson regularly consulted the Cyropedia – an encyclopedia written by the ancient Greeks about Cyrus the Great. The two personal copies of Thomas Jefferson’s Cyropaedia are in the US Library of Congress in Washington DC. Thomas Jefferson’s initials “TJ” are seen clearly engraved at the bottom of each page.

The Cyrus Cylinder “is important because of the ideals it represents, that say who we really are,” said Bita Milanian, executive director of the L.A.-based Farhang Foundation, a nonpolitical, nonreligious organization that aims to further the study and appreciation of Iranian art and culture (“farhang” means “culture” in Persian). Formed in 2008, the foundation has helped establish an Iranian studies program at USC, to go with a long-standing one at UCLA.

eleanor-roosevelt-udhr-2As noted by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people… All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (UDHR-Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney).

“Non-Iranians can get to know the Iranian culture and its people in the correct light, rather than the portrayals in the media that we hear every day,” Milanian said. “The exhibition gives us a symbol to point to and start important conversations, to talk about things that have never been public and allow our cultural values to take their rightful place among the highlights and history of civilization.”

Harry S TrumanHarry S. Truman (1884-1972) who was President of the United States in 1945-1953. Not only did he acknowledge the legacy of Cyrus the Great in liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, he also stood up against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who tried to absorb Iran’s Azarbaijan province into the Soviet Union. For more Click here…

She estimates that 500,000 Iranian Americans live in Southern California, by far their largest regional presence in the United States, with most having arrived since the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah of Iran and installed the present regime.

6-Tomb of DaneilThe tomb of Daniel in Khuzestan in southwest Iran. The main structure (note cone-like dome) as it stands today (left) and Iranian pilgrims paying homage within the tomb of Daniel.

Milanian said that area school districts’ units on ancient history typically skip Cyrus and the Persian empire, and she hopes that classes coming to see the Cyrus Cylinder will help establish a basis for its eventual inclusion in public school curriculums.

Besides the school groups, said the Getty’s Potts, “we’ve had busloads of Persians, and in some cases groups that are Zoroastrians, the same faith as [the Persian Empire’s] rulers. It’s been an extraordinary turnout.”

Cyrus Koresh Kourosh street in JerusalemWhen History goes beyond Politics: Koresh or Cyrus street in Jerusalem. There is currently no street named Cyrus or Koroush in Tehran, the capital of Iran today. There is also an “Iran” street in Israel.

Updates and Photos from Yerevan State University Conference November 2013

As noted on a Blog-News release on October 28, 2013, Kaveh Farrokh provided a presentation at  (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department  entitled “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics). He also delivered a second (2-part) lecture entitled “Cultural Links between Iran, Armenia and Georgia from Antiquity to the early 1800s“. These were delivered on November 2 and 4th 2013 respectively.

YSU-Committee-2013-1Cover page, dedication and list of organizers of the conference. Kindly note that Kaveh Farrokh was one of the members of the organizing committee for the conference at Yerevan State University (Click to enlarge to see list of organizers). For more information on the conference kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics.

Below are photo updates of the conference.

YSU-Nov-2013-1From left to right: Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Department, Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston), Professor Ali Granmayeh (London Middle East Institute, SOAS, University of London) and Professor Vardan Voskanian (faculty, Iranian Studies Department, Yerevan State University). Professor Asatrian and Kaveh Farrokh were interviewed on November 5, 2013 by Armenian TV regarding the conference (click here…)

YSU-Nov-2013-2The opening ceremonies and lectures of the conference at Yerevan State University.

YSU-10-YSU Faculty and Grad StduentsA gathering of students and faculty of the Iranian Studies Department at Yerevan State University, with Professor Victoria Arakelova situated second from right. Professor Victoria Arakelova is Associate Professor, Department of Iranian Studies, Yerevan State University and Associate Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden.

YSU-4-Prof Galichian-2 Professor Rouben Galichian presenting on ancient maps of Shirvan, Arran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Farrokh has written a book review of Galichian’s latest text which will appear in the forthcoming edition of the distinguished journal IranNameh: A Journal of Iranian Studies, edited by Professor Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi (Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto and the chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto-Mississauga).

YSU-16-Asatrian-Farrokh-Borbor-3Professor Garnik Asatrian, Kaveh Farrokh and Professor Dariush Borbor (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge and Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) at Tehran).

YSU-Nov-2013-3 Farrokh lectures at Yerevan State University on November 2 (links between Arran, Azerbaijan and Iran – bottom photo) and November 4 (post-conference lecture on Iran-Armenia and Iran-Georgia links – top photo). Farrokh and Asatrian also appeared on Armenian state TV (see here…) to discuss the conference and its importance to the study of languages and ethnic groups of the Caucasus.

 YSU-14-Arakelova and GeorgiaProfessor Victoria Arakelova and Professor Irina Natchkebia (Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies of Georgian Academy of Sciences).

YSU-18-YSU Conference(Left) Professor Sekandar Amanollahi-Baharvand who teaches anthropology at the University of Shiraz and (Right) Professor Garnik Asatrian.

YSU-12-Garnik Asatrian Residence-4After the Conference: Enjoying the Caucasian climate and local South Caucasus cuisine at Professor Asatrian’s residence: (Left) Farrokh and Professor Caspar ten Dam of Leiden University (Holland) (Right) from left to right: Professor Rouben Galichian and Professor Dariush Borbor.

Zoroastrian and Mithraic Sites of the Caucasus

The Caucasus has acted a vital conduit between the Iranian plateau-Eastern Anatolia axis and Eastern Europe. The photo survey below illustrates the legacy of Iran’s ancient Zoroastrian religion and the Cult of Mithras in the Caucasus.

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO[Click to Enlarge] The main fire altar at the Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) (Picture Source: Panoramio). This site is now registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site. 


Garni Temple-Armenia[Click to Enlarge] The Temple of Garni in Armenia. An example of Classical Armenian architecture bearing a Hellenic inspiration, this Temple was first ordered to be built in dedication to Mithras by Tiridates I in approximately 66 CE. The god Mithras in time became merged with the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) of the Roman Empire (Picture Source: Skyscraper City).


Tbilisi Ategsha (Fire Temple)[Click to Enlarge] Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006). For more on the topic of Zoroastrian fire temples in Georgia see Payvand News of Iran: The Northernmost Zoroastrian Fire Temple in the World (in the Republic of Georgia).


Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO-2[Click to Enlarge] Another view of the UNESCO registered Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku (Picture Source: TravelPro).


Citadel of ArmaziA close-up view of the ruins of the citadel of Armazi in Georgia. It is possible that the term “Armazi” is derived from Iranic “Mazda” or “Ahura-Mazda”, the primary spiritual deity of the Zoroastrian faith (Picture Source: Iranboom).


Armenian Church built on Fire Temple[Click to Enlarge] Pictures of a Medieval Armenian Church at Goshavank sent to Kavehfarrokh.com by Professor George Nercessian (see article: “Professors Curatolia and Scaria: Dome Architecture and Europe“). This was built on the remains of cyclopean walls, where a Zoroastrian fire temple (Armenian Atrushan =Iranian Atar-Roshan) originally stood. There are many similar sites in Armenia where Churches were built on top of Zoroastrian fire temples (Pictures courtesy of Professor George Narcessian). For more on the topic of Armenian-Zoroastrian fire temples consult CAIS: The Armenian Fire Temple of Ani.

Kaveh Farrokh Presentation at University of Yerevan November 2013

Kaveh Farrokh provided a presentation at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department at the “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics).

YSUFrontal view of the State University of Yerevan, host to theShirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference  on Nov. 1-2, 2013. The university is host to an excellent Iranian Studies program, staffed by exemplary researchers such as Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston) and Professor Victoria Arakelova (Associate Professor, Department of Iranian Studies, Yerevan State University; Associate Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden). The conference has been made possible through the works of Professors Asatrian and Arakelova.

YSU-Committee-2013-1Cover page, dedication and list of organizers of the conference. Kindly note that Kaveh Farrokh was one of the members of the organizing committee for the conference at Yerevan State University (Click to enlarge to see list of organizers). For more information on the conference kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics.

Kaveh Farrokh’s presentation and abstract for the conference was as follows:

Cultural Links between Iran and Arran (Modern Republic of Azerbaijan) from Antiquity to the 1900s” (November 2, 2013)

This paper will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Albania/Arran and Iran from antiquity to the early twentieth century. A comprehensive series of Classical and pre- Islamic Iranian sources as well as archaeological studies are referenced for the pre-Islamic (Medo-Achaemenid and Partho-Sassanian) era. Examples cited include discoveries of Achaemenid palaces in the region as well as the role of the Albanian knights in the Sassanian army (Spah). The post-Islamic era is discussed with respect to Islamic and European primary sources and cartography with references to languages, the Safavid and post-Safavid eras to the early 1900s.

Zoroastrians-BakuModern-day Zoroastrians from Iran at the Baku Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) being led in religious ceremonies by Mobed Kourosh Niknam (Source: Image by Farroukh Aliev with this first appearing in Fravahr.org).

تالار فردوسی - ایران شناسی- دانشگاه دولتی ایروانThe Hall of Firdowsi at (تالار فردوسی در بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان)  the Iranian Studies department of Yerevan State University.

After the conference, Farrokh delivered an additional lecture on November 4, 2013 at the University of Yerevan entitled:

Cultural Links between Iran, Armenia and Georgia from Antiquity to the early 1800s 

This lecture will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Iran, Armenia and Georgia,notably with respect to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian eras. The role of Northern Iranian peoples in the Caucasus and their impact upon the Caucasus is also examined. Topics addressed the role of the Naxarar Armenian knights in the Sassanian Spah (Army) and the role of Armenia and Georgia in cultural contacts between the Iranian Plateau and Eastern Europe. The discussion will conclude with the promotion of Persian language and literature in the Caucasus during the post-Islamic era up to the early 1800s.

Surva-Zorvan-BulgariaThe Surva festival in Bulgaria. Local traditions ascribe this festival to the ancient Iranian cult of Zurvan (Master of Time); the Caucasus has long acted as a conduit between Eastern Europe and the Iranian plateau.

The “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference has been dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Enayatollah Reza.

Prof Enayatollah RezaThe late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010).

Letter of Appreciation to Kaveh Farrokh

Appreciation-WAALM-2013Kaveh Farrokh has received a Letter of Appreciation from the London-based WAALM (World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media) for having contributed to the WAALM Podcast “Arts for Peace” for the celebration of the International Day of Peace September, 21, 2013. Kaveh Farrokh is the Head of the Department of Traditions & Cultural History at WAALM.

WAALM-Certificate of Appreciation-2013[Click to Enlarge] The Letter of Appreciation to Kaveh Farrokh for the London-based and United Nations affiliated WAALM society for assistance accorded to the “Arts for Peace” project on behalf of the International day of Peace.

ACUNS-WAALM-NobelThe Nobel Peace Prize nominated World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media (WAALM) has endeavored to promote peace through dialogue in the arts, culture and academia. Readers are encouraged to listen to the entire Podcast “Arts for Peace” which also features excellent musical pieces from world-class artists – to listen, kindly click poster below (Kaveh Farrokh is featured 31:30 minutes into the Podcast):


Readers are also encouraged to read the interview of Iranian Maestro Sattar with the Persianesque magazine:


Kaveh Farrokh received the Best History book Award in 2008 – click on image below: